Tuesday, 3 April 2018

'I've just met Larry Grayson'

Whilst watching a programme about one of the UK's best ever comedians, I was reminded of an incident in Bognor Regis in 1984 - when there was still a theatre on the Pier.

During the 1970s I was living in Spain but made many trips home to stay with my parents. They were avid fans of Larry Grayson so I was fortunate enough to see him on the telly. What a joy and so good for a belly laugh. No foul language (as these days) and no shouting (again as these days). Yes, innuendo but mostly by his cheeky looks into the camera.

It was interesting to learn of his history, the decades in which he toured the clubs and variety theatres before being 'discovered' for television. I reckon that wannabe comedians could learn a lot by studying Larry.

I returned to the UK in 1984 and was staying with my parents at their home in Hastings. One day I took them on a day trip with Southdown Coaches. On the return journey we made a stop at Bognor Regis. Mum didn't want to go far from the coach park so Dad wandered off on his own. About ten minutes later he returned, smiling literally from ear-to-ear.

'I've just met Larry Grayson!'

Apparently Dad was in front of the pier when a taxi pulled up and a man in a hurry got out and bumped into him. Larry Grayson was late getting to the theatre. He was full of apologies and absolutely thrilled my father. Thank you, Larry.

Monday, 26 March 2018


This is the fourth book in the Cleo Marjoribanks series - and it takes place in the New Forest.

Chapter 1

I don't believe it!  Only back from Spain for a few weeks and there's another body. No, I haven't found another one as I did when David and I were on holiday.  Apparently there's been a murder in another village in the Forest - that's the New Forest in Hampshire.

This morning before Mrs. Walsh - who 'does' for me - had unpacked her overall and put on the kettle (sorry - switched on the kettle) she was in full spate with the news.
'Had a terrible shock,' she told me in her New Forest burr. 'Linda's dead.'
'My friend, Linda'
'Sorry to hear that.  Was she ill?'
'No-o-o.  Murdered.'  She wrung her hands.  Yeah, honest she did.  She only needed a puzzled look from me to continue, 'Her husband found 'er in the garding this morning.  She went out to bingo in their church 'all last night and didn't come 'ome.'
'Wasn't he worried?'
She shook her head which is now a strange chocolate brown with blue tips and whispered. 'Separate bedrooms.'
'He wouldn't know she'd stopped out.'
'Right, but I don't know why 'e didn't notice at breakfast.'
'Letting her have a lie in?'
'Nah.  She works at Mitcham Manor.  Cleaning, like me, so she'd 'ave ter be up early.'
'You said she was murdered?' I reminded her.
'Head bashed in.'
Yup, that'd kill someone. 'Oh dear.  How did you find out?'
'One of their neighbours phoned ter tell me and ask if I've got 'n hour or two ter spare today if they need someone ter fill in at the Manor.'
Her phone played 'My Way' - she's a Frank Sinatra fan - and she rummaged in her bag for it. That's when I noticed that her nails match the blue in her hair.
When she'd finished the call and was jotting something in her Filofax I asked, 'Why do you still have a Filofax? You can put all that info onto the phone.'
'Don't know how to. This is a new one my 'usband give me.' She snorted. 'A phone's a phone. That's all I need. It's easier ter plan my weeks with the Filofax.'
Rather like me and my calendar. Incidentally, she's a bit older than me.  I think somewhere in her fifties and, so my friend Paula tells me, is always formal. Calls all her clients Mrs. or Miss - whatever. We've decided it must be a family trait as it seems all her family worked in service. You know, maids and things in the big houses.
Mug of tea and two biscuits later Mrs. Walsh finally got started on the work and I went to my office - or study or whatever you want to call it - and phoned Paula.
So you don't get confused I'd better tell you a bit more about me. My name's Cleo Marjoribanks and I'm from the East End of London (cockney-land). When I won the lottery I chucked me job in and bought an old house in Trewith Green, a village in the New Forest.  The house isn't that big, room to spread myself with room to spare for visitors.  And Mrs. Walsh comes a couple of times a week to 'do' for me.
Paula Linley is sort of the lady of the manor and yes, I know what you're thinking, a most unlikely friend for me but she's been my friend from almost when I first moved to the village earlier this year.
'Morning, Paula.  Welcome home.'
'Good morning, Cleo.  Holidays are delightful but there is nothing like getting home, is there?'
'No, but you had a good time?'
'You know about Edinburgh.'
'Probably more than you, even though we have chatted about it,' I commented dryly.  She and Gerard (her husband) had begun in Edinburgh where, along with their teenage daughter, Maggie, they had visited James and Milly, their elder son and his wife and met the new addition - a boy - to the family. 'And you hired a car to go touring the Highlands.'
She chuckled. 'Thanks for taking care of Maggie and getting her off to school.'  Maggie is a weekly boarder.  Before trolling off on their own they had put Maggie on a plane to Southampton where I had met her, brought her home to my house and, two days later, driven her back to school for the new term. 
'We had fun and she and Eva went riding.'
'Now there is a surprise,' Maggie's mother said dryly.
Eva is a teenager David and I met in Spain and, like Maggie, is mad about horses. I'd invited her for a couple of days to keep Maggie company. I know Paula lets her daughter ride through the forest on her own but I was not about to let her do that.
Paula and I chatted for a few more minutes about the holiday, caught up on village gossip then I asked, 'Have you heard about the murder over in Mitcham Parva? Mrs. Walsh knows the woman. Apparently she was a cleaner at Mitcham Manor.'
'Who was it? This is the first I've heard. Our carrier pigeon hasn't been here yet.' In case you haven't spotted the connection, Carrier Pigeon equals Mrs. Walsh.
I told her as much as I know, adding, 'You'll get it all again later.'
'True. You say she was a cleaner at Mitcham Manor?'

'It is owned by friends of ours. We're due there on Saturday evening for dinner.'



Thursday, 22 March 2018

'Death of a Copycat'

Chapter 1.

Trudi couldn’t believe it!  She’s done it again! she thought as she listened to Marcia reading the opening of her new book.  Looking at the rest of the group as they sat around the table she wondered if anyone else recognized the story.  It seemed not, for when Marcia finished, carefully avoiding looking at Trudi, the other members of the writing circle proceeded to make their comments.  Some praised, some suggested.  And all agreed that it was a great idea for a book.
Yes, fumed Trudi, my idea, which I read out to you last month.
While everyone else around the table had their attention fixed on Marcia, Trudi slipped her file from under the legal pad and put it on her lap.  She then ‘vented’ on the pad in her own form of shorthand.
“You’re very quiet, Trudi,” Brenda, their middle-aged leader who had begun the circle a couple of years earlier, commented.  “Any comments?  I saw you making some notes.”
Nothing you’d like to hear, “Same as everyone else.  Good idea.”  And she caught sight of Marcia’s sly grin as the woman bent down to pick up her document case and slip the pages inside.

Outside in the car park and under the hot sun Trudi really got up a head of steam as she and her close friend, Lucia, headed for their cars.  “She really has a nerve!  That’s the second time she’s done it to me!”
Lucia looked puzzled.  “What?  Who?”
“Marcia.  Didn’t you recognize that opening chapter?”
“Well, yes, but she gave us the outline last month.”
“Do what?”  Trudi stopped in her tracks.
Lucia stopped and turned to look back at her English friend.  Light dawned.  “No she didn’t.  You did.”
“But how could she have gotten the idea?  She wasn’t here last month.  She was on a  cruise.  Or something,” Lucia recalled.
“Katherine?” Trudi queried, thinking of the mouse of the group who thought Marcia was the bee’s knees.
“Probably.  Did you say that’s the second time she’s pinched your idea?”
“Yup.  I wonder how many other people she’s stolen from?”
“No one has ever said anything.  At least, not to me they haven’t.”
“Lucia, I am so damned mad that if I hadn’t had such a job finding a good writer’s circle when I first came here, I would leave.”
“But, of course, you won’t,” Lucia grinned.  She knew all of the stories about her friend’s abortive attempts.  “Listen, hon, I’ve got to go and pick up the kids.  I’ll call you later.”
“Sure.  I’ll be home.  Either plotting a new book or how to get even with Marcia.”  So saying, Trudi moved across the aisle to her car and opened the door to let out the oven-baked July heat.  Thank goodness for efficient air conditioning she grimaced as she got in and switched on the engine before closing the door.
Driving towards her home in the west of the town, she was thinking about Marcia.  Something she hadn’t yet told Lucia was a conclusion she had reached the previous weekend.  Marcia had not only stolen two of her book ideas, but she had also been getting free information from Trudi and using it.

Available on: Kindle/Kobo/Smashwords (for other e-readers).

Friday, 16 March 2018

12 Hours in the life of a Children's Playground.

My flat overlooks a children's playground which during term time - and on fine days - seems to be divided into the four 'ages' of children.

In the morning it is for the babies and toddlers. Lovely to hear the chuckles as they are pushed on the swings or toddle around some of the other play items.

Early afternoon come the children who spend a couple of morning hours at play/nursery school - whatever the current name is. They are a little noisier but mostly laughing.

Then come the schoolchildren. Oh my! Especially the girls who shriek and scream fit to split one's eardrums. Amazingly many of the mothers with them don't seem to care. Are they deaf? Or just being un-neighbourly?

Need I mention the night-time teenagers who, in my humble opinion, ought to be at home and - during term time - in bed. Screaming, shouting, swearing, possibly drinking alcohol, smoking and taking drugs. And doing their best to wreck the swings.

Call Community Police? Tried that. 'If it is still going on in fifteen minutes time, give us another call.'
No comment

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

£172 a week to live on.

Just read that the UK Government has worked it out that single people aged 65+ need about £172 a week on which to live.


I just worked out my weekly expenses:

Rent: £155.76
Council Tax: £25.64
Electricity: £18.46 (approx).
Water: £8.21

Total: £209.07.

No food?

I suspect that the Government's calculations are based upon people who have paid off their mortgage. Unfortunately for many of us (particularly women) of 75+ we never had the chance to buy our own properties and so are still paying extortionate rents. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

University Debts

It never ceases to amaze me when I hear of the humungous debts of University education and the students/graduates taking a 'Gap' year.

Excuse me? Instead of trolling off travelling the world, how about earning money to pay off your debts?

Yes, I admit that I am of the generation which believes in 'if you can't afford it, go without', but I cannot help but feel that beginning one's adult life deep in debt isn't a good start.

Especially when I frequently meet people who have 'qualifications' (and debts) but cannot get a job. And when I meet graduates who are now working as wait staff or in a shop. Spending these years at university would probably have been better spent starting on the bottom rung of a ladder and working up to a more profitable job. Speaking of which, I have heard from prospective employers that some graduates don't seem to realise that, despite their qualifications, they still have to begin work near the bottom rung!

Apprenticeships are a good way to learn a trade.

I think these days too much emphasis is put on higher education. After all, you can only have a limited number of chiefs and you need a huge number of worker bees.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Still Waters by Judith Cutler - Review

Still Waters (Fran Harman, #3)Still Waters by Judith Cutler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the Fran Harmon books, it is filled with problems. Detective Chief Superintendent Harmer has to contend with a new DCC whom she once trained. Her partner ACC Mark Turner has a problem daughter. On top of which there mysterious deaths and disappearances. Beautifully written - a not-put-downable book.

View all my reviews